These colourful beauties will fill your garden with the joys of spring
It’s time to let these gorgeous late blooms do the talking
Bring bold and bright blues to your plot with these late flowerers
These elegant plants will fill your garden with gorgeous late colour
Brighten up your borders with their abundant spires of vivid colour
Bee-friendly butterfly bushes are now more varied than ever
These pincushion-flowered perennials are a pollinator magnet
These summer perennials are unsurpassed for colour and scent
These sun-loving, aromatic perennials come in a range of tones
Gardeners can always depend on these cottage garden favourites
These creeping plants will give a new dimension to your borders
Aromatic perennials will reward you with colourful spikes of flowers.
These colourful members of the daisy family will shine all summer!
The delightful, fleur-de-lis flowers look fabulous in summer borders
Plant some in a border for colourful flowers until the end of summer.
They’ll give you a great show even where little else will thrive
We’re all familiar with the gorgeous blooms of tall bearded irises, but far fewer gardeners grow their much smaller cousins, the dwarf bearded iris. Equally delightful, they flower earlier, from mid-April into May, and being much, much smaller, they’re ideal for planting in poor, dry soil alongside pathways and in gravel gardens where they won’t take up much room or get swamped by herbaceous partners. They’re also good for narrow borders beneath sunny windows where little else will thrive. Most reach no higher than 15cm (6in) tall, with all the colours and shades you come to expect from their bigger relatives with demure single colours, to jazzy, avant-garde combinations of electric-blue, golden-yellows, brooding purples and powerful reds, with multi-coloured petals and contrasting beards.
Dwarf bearded iris are developed from the diminutive European species I. pumila and other taller bearded iris, which introduced a kaleidoscope of colours, while retaining the compact habit. All are easy to grow and, being short, don’t need staking like some of their larger cousins. It’s important to make sure the small rhizomes get sufficient light in summer and don’t get swamped by herbaceous partners. They can be propagated like any other iris. Lift and divide in June, keeping the younger, more vigorous rhizomes and discarding older growth. Plant them so the rhizomes are exposed on the soil surface to get heat and light and they’ll flower much more reliably. Once you’re hooked, you’ll soon start collecting all the various forms!
These early-blossoming flowering quince shrubs shrubs create a real spectacle
Once the flowering quince, or chaenomeles, burst into bloom you know the gardening year is about to get into full swing. Colourful and reliable whatever the weather, these deciduous shrubs flower on bare stems from February, into March and beyond. The three species all come from the east. C. japonica comes from Japan, while C. speciosa and C. cathayensis come from China (C. speciosa is also found in Korea). Many of the varieties available have been developed from C. superba, a hybrid between C. speciosa and C. japonica. The bright, cupshaped flowers, which form at the base of older stems, come in a range of tones from bright scarlet, pink, salmon, apricot, pale yellow and, of course, white. After the flowers come oval to squat yellow-green fruits. Once ripe, these are best used to make jams and jellies, but can be cooked. The large-growing Cathay quince, C. cathayensis, has the biggest fruits of all, reaching 15cm (6in) across.
They grow in most soils and situations, even heavy clay in sun or partial shade. Once established, they need little care, but growth can become a unkempt and is best pruned to shape. After flowering, cut out all the thin, wispy branches to leave a more open structure composed of thicker shoots. Over-long growths can be cut back by about a third to reduce the height. You can also selectively remove shoots that are three to four years old to encourage new growths to form. Chaenomeles is also good for training up walls or fences, even those which are north or east facing. They’re susceptible to fireblight, so don’t grow them if this is already a serious problem.
Bring sparkle to dark winter days
It’s hard to imagine an iris flowering in the depths of winter, but the Algerian iris, Iris unguicularis, does just that! Although it’s a plant from Mediterranean shores, it’s far hardier than you might think, but it still needs a sheltered, well-drained spot, such as at the base of a south or west-facing wall, to do well.
A sunny spot by a front door, where its flowers can be admired, is ideal. The flowers are produced intermittently during breaks in the weather, and can also be taken indoors, where their beautiful markings, and honey-scent of varieties such as ‘Walter Butt’, can be fully appreciated. While the straight species is attractive, over the years a number of forms have been introduced from the wild, or selected from seed.
Previously known as I. stylosa, the iris is a clump-forming, evergreen perennial, spreading by means of congested rhizomes, clothed in narrow, upright or arching leaves. The flowers, produced from late autumn through to early spring, are produced from a succession of buds in shades of lilac through to blue-purple, often marked in the centre and honey-scented, with some varieties being far better perfumed than others.
They all prefer a poor soil that’s well drained, but not waterlogged. They need an open position, without competition from other plants. New plantings will take a year or two to settle in, so water in pot-grown plants two or three times if conditions are dry. Remove hidden snails before flowering. Clip off or pull away old foliage after flowering to tidy up the plants.